Gene William Hubert, 51, died March 6, in Durham, North Carolina, following a brief illness. Originally from Missouri, music and contra dance became an abiding interest and passion in his life. His delight in the social aspects of dance enabled him to write many dances, and he was known in the dance community as the “king of flow” because his dances were so well designed. Gene published three volumes of what he called Dizzy Dances, he was instrumental in the development of Winston Salem’s Fiddle and Bow Society’s annual dance weekend, Feet Retreat, and he initiated the Grange Dance in Greensboro, North Carolina. He had a wonderful, productive life and created a legacy of enduring joy for many people
The sometimes-rocky relationship between contra dance callers and old-time bands has often (perhaps to often) been discussed in the OTH. This was never the case with Gene Hubert. Gene was not one to relish bossing around the bands or dancers. A contra dance for him was a sort of laboratory where he subtly fathered perfect kinetic machines of fun.
I remember a particular evening with Gene Hubert calling. I was filling in on banjo for Tom Riccio with the Red Hots at the Vintage Dance in Winston Salem. The band was taking the breaks between dances to discuss weather, festivals, new records in short anything but what we would play next. After Gene had taught a dance, he asked, “Have a tune guys?” Fiddler Joe Thrift replied, “Is it OK if it’s not square?” Gene just smiled and said “Sure.”
Joe sprung the “Magnolia One-Step” on him, a tune that might have caused a nervous breakdown, or a loud “Stop!” from another caller. Gene just rewrote the dance in real time enjoying the twists and turns of the erratic three-part tune. Recently Gene had been turning his attention to writing squares, fascinated by their improvisational possibilities.
I know the contra dance community will greatly miss one of their great dance writers; the old-time community lost a great friend as well.